Sunday, April 05, 2009

Notes on Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, we are confronted with the duty of memory that lies at the heart of Christian faith and practice. Celebrating Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we also recall his passion and death. Despite the somber tone of the liturgies of Holy Week, we also cannot help but remember that we will soon celebrate Christ's resurrection. In Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, Father Alexander Schmemann has this to say about the place of memory in the Christian life:

One can say without exagerration that the whole life of the Church is one continuous commemoration and remembrance. At the end of each liturgy we refer to the saints "whose memory we celebrate," but behind all memories, the Church is the remembrance of Christ. From a purely natural point of view, memory is an ambiguous faculty. Thus to remember someone whom we love and whom we lost means two things. One the one hand memory is much more than mere knowledge of the past. When I remember my late father, I see him; he is present in my memory not as a sum total of all that I know about him but in all his living reality. Yet, on the other hand, it is this very presence that makes me feel actutely that he is no longer here, that never again in this world and in this life shall I touch this hand which I so vividly see in my memory. Memory is thus the most wonderful and at the same time the most tragic of all human faculties, for nothing reveals better the broken nature of our life, the impossibility for man truly to keep, to possess anything in this world. Memory reveals to us that "time and death reign on earth." But it is precisely because of this uniquely human function of memory that Christianity is also centered on it, for it consists primarily in remembering one Man, one Event, one Night, in the depth and darkness of which we were told: ". . . do this in remembrance of me." And lo, the miracle takes place! We remember Him and He is here - not as a nostalgic image of the past, not as a sad "never more," but with such intensity of presence that the Church can eternally repeat what the disciples said after Emmaus: ". . . did not our hearts burn within us?" (Luke 24:32).

My prayers are with all readers who will be celebrating Holy Week in the coming days. May we who gather in remembrance of Jesus Christ feel his presence among us in a deeper and more intense way as we celebrate his passion, death and resurrection. AMDG.


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